Santa Cruz to Monterey, California

This past Labor Day weekend marked my first bike tour. An amazing experience: Load your stuff on your bike and pedal away. The open road stretches in front of you as you pass by farmland, forests, towns, sand dunes, and ocean. We covered about 90 miles over two days on the Pacific Coast Bike Route in central coastal California.

Laura and Eric biking through farmland along San Andreas Road on day 1 -- we were treated to some stunning scenery.

The three of us camped at a hiker/biker site in Monterey. I love those campsites, because you get to meet people with amazing travel stories. There was this English guy who has travelled to 70 countries and takes only buses and trains. And there was a girl who biked three months in Mongolia before topping it off with a trip from LA to San Francisco. 

Some of the basic gear we needed included decent bikes, panniers, tent, sleeping bag, and tools. As a first timer, I didn't have the best of gear. But you gotta make do with what you have. A good bike with a wide range of gears is essential to tackle the rolling hills along the route. A good set of panniers will keep your load stable on the bike. We didn't carry much food, as we had our meals at restaurants and cafes along the way. The cool cloudy days made for a relaxing ride (but were a downer for good photos). I thoroughly enjoyed the ride along the coast on sandy cliffs overlooking the blue ocean. The tour combined two of my favorite outdoor activities, biking and camping.

Eric and Laura making their way on Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail. It was wonderful to have an uninterrupted bike path for ten miles!

A biking trip is very different from a road trip in a car. It's real adventure. You travel much slower and thus get more intimate with the landscapes. You connect to the place through the sights, sounds, and smells. You can stop as much as you want and whenever you feel like it. And people are a lot more friendly toward you, and open to conversation.

A gorgeous view of the Monterey Bay, one of the high points of the trip.

All in all, a fun trip. Thanks to Eric and Laura for making it happen. I'm looking forward to the next pedaling adventure.

Trip details --

Saturday: Bus from San Jose to Santa Cruz. Bike from Santa Cruz to Monterey.

Sunday: Bike to Carmel along 17-Mile Drive and back.

Monday: Bus from Monterey to San Jose

Get more information about bike overnights.

Tip for this adventure: Check out the view of Monterey Bay from the sand dunes just north of Monterey.

Favorite local bike shop: Calmar Bicycles in Santa Clara, CA. 

11 responses so far ↓

rob jones - Nov 9, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Very cool!! Sounds like a great adventure!! Good job!

Wendy - Nov 9, 2011 at 4:33 PM

What is also great is you can take this trip at any time of year, though in winter the nights are colder, of course, but it is still pretty temperate compared to other places.

Tom Kabat - Nov 9, 2011 at 10:32 PM

Inspirational, with some practical how to advice! Please consider sharing it as an "instructable" at to help create more bike tourers.

Daniel - Nov 10, 2011 at 6:55 PM

Thanks for the comments guys! I did another weekend bike tour in Napa a few weeks back.

Bill - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:27 AM

Where did you camp? I've heard bad thing about camping in the State Parks

Daniel - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:30 AM

We camped at the Veterans park in Monterey. I dont think its a state park.
I have also camped at Napa Boothe state park. It was pretty good. At which parks have you had bad experiences?

Rich - Dec 28, 2011 at 9:50 AM

My 2 sons and I did 3 days from Half Moon Bay to Salinas. Did you use the Pacific coast route? We did and it was wonderful.

Sasha - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Fond memories. I lived in Morgan Hill (before moving to LA area in 2011), and did the 17-mile drive several rimes. Can by done in most any weather, if you don't mind bundling up when necessary.

Veterans Memorial is a city park - good showers and hiker biker site. Other hiker biker sites are located at Big Sur State Park and other locations along the coast south of Monterey area.

Brian - Sep 15, 2012 at 9:07 PM

What was involved to get your bikes back to the start location via bus? Bike racks or boxing? Please elaborate.


Daniel - Sep 16, 2012 at 11:41 AM

The city buses have bike racks in the front. You have take the panniers of though before loading them.

Peter - Jan 27, 2016 at 9:21 AM

I live in Santa Cruz County and have enjoyed this route several times. Camping: State Parks has hike/bike ($5) at New Brighton, Sunset, Big Sur, San Simeon (avoid, they have cut-off showers and restrooms), and Morro Bay. Monterey County Park's has Veterans Campgrounds perched atop the City of Monterey which includes free showers ($5). If you travel further south, Lompoc has a excellent County Park with free showers. Back to Monterey, I would recommend everyone to enjoy the history of Monterey, and especially check-out Colton Hall, where the ONLY bi-lingual state constitution was signed. There's a short 3 mile history walk/bike route.

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